Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 3rd August 1978.

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Photo of Mr Leslie Huckfield Mr Leslie Huckfield , Nuneaton 12:00 am, 3rd August 1978

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-East (Mr. Palmer) for initiating this debate, for the title that he has given it, and for the manner in which he presented his case. I also thank the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, South (Mr. Cope) for his complementary remarks.

The Concorde has now carried more than 100,000 passengers, so it is not only a reality but an established reality, with a wide network of scheduled services connecting London and Paris with overseas destinations. British Airways is now operating 10 return flights a week between London and New York, and three a week to Washington. Additionally, there are two British Airways services a week to Bahrain. Air France has seven services a week to New York, four to Rio, three to Washington and two to Caracas. That is indeed an established network of supersonic services.

Both airlines have early plans for expanding their Concorde network—British Airways westwards from Washington to Dallas/Fort Worth, both on its own account and through its interchange agreement with Braniff, and eastward from Bahrain to Singapore in conjunction with Singapore Airlines, and Air France from Washington to Mexico City as an Air France operation, and from Washington to Dallas/Fort Worth under the inter, change agreement with Braniff. In both cases other destinations are expected to be added later, and frequencies increased on those already served. I shall come later to the specific point raised concerning Singapore and Malaysia.

In a few months British Aerospace and their French partners will have completed the 16 aircraft whose production was confirmed by the then Prime Minister and the French President in July 1974. This confirmation was without further commitment, and neither Government have any current plans for the production of additional aircraft. My hon. Friend will recall that, for our part, we have made clear that the question of authorising further production can be considered only if all five unsold aircraft—the white-tailed aircraft to which my hon. Friend referred—have been sold, and if it would not increase the overall loss to the two Governments.

But equally I want to stress that we have retained the capability to produce further Concordes should these be required. The jigs and tools, although they are now being removed in Britain and France to make way for other work, are being carefully stored. In a recent communication to the United States State Department on the subject of the new United States noise regulations for supersonic aircraft, both the British and French Governments have explicitly reserved their rights to operate on the same terms as the Administration have applied to the 16 aircraft any further Concordes that might be produced.

On the possibility of a successor to Concorde, our position—and this is, of course, the position also of British Aerospace—remains as described by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Industry, following the ministerial meeting of 2nd November 1976, namely, that British priorities, we feel, lie in subsonic aircraft; that the manufacturers' proposals for a Concorde derivative aircraft for the 1980s should not be proceeded with; and that, as regards an advanced supersonic transport for the 1990s, we should consolidate the knowledge and experience gained on Concorde.